Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 5:23 AM
It’s hard to imagine anything good coming out of the mess former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) got himself into by attempting to rape a hotel maid a month ago; yet something very good is.
Specifically, Christine Lagarde, France’s finance minister, seems poised to replace him – given that the U.S., EU and African countries have already telegraphed their support for her candidacy. If she does, she will become the first woman appointed to this very coveted and influential position since the IMF was founded in 1944.
Incidentally, the irony is not lost on me that a “gentlemen’s agreement” exists between the United States and Europe which calls for an American to head the World Bank and for a European to head the IMF. This means that, despite Latin American countries putting forward a candidate, Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens, Lagarde’s appointment is a fait accompli. (An official announcement is expected by the end of this month.)
Of course, this prospect should be celebrated for many reasons. But it would be disingenuous not to cite the fact that she is far less likely than any male replacement to bring the bank into disrepute for sexual misconduct. For, despite the seemingly oxymoronic spate of female teachers preying on their male students lately, it is generally accepted that women in such positions of power are far less inclined to abuse it for sexual gratification.
That said, I am celebrating this prospect for a more pragmatic reason. And, as it happens, I agree with no less a person than Lagarde herself – who is on record offering this remarkably prescient and now topical bit of insight on the differences between the way powerful men and women conduct themselves:
Women inject less libido and less testosterone into the equation. It helps in the sense that we don’t necessarily project our own egos into cutting a deal, making our point across, convincing people, reducing them to a partner that has been lost in the process.
It’s probably overgeneralised what I’m saying and I’m sure there are women who operate exactly like men. But in the main … I honestly believe that the majority of women in such positions approach power operate in a slightly different manner.
(London Telegraph, October 11, 2010)
I duly expressed my agreement with her, for the record, as follows:
This is the somewhat controversial reasoning France’s finance minister, Christine Lagarde, offered to explain her compelling assertion that women make better politicians than men. Unfortunately, the dearth of women holding powerful political positions around the world makes her assertion impossible to prove.
But we have enough data, as well as anecdotal evidence, from the way women have influenced the corporate world to make some credible extrapolations. The correlation between more women holding positions of power and the implementation of family friendly policies is undeniable in this respect.
Therefore, it’s entirely reasonable to assert that if more women held positions of power in politics they would use their power more towards building up human resources than military armaments – just to cite one obvious example.
(Women make better politicians than men, The iPINIONS Journal, October 14, 2010)
In fact, Lagarde is likely to be far more sensitive than DSK was (or any male successor would be) to the macroeconomic and exogenous factors (most notably hurricanes) that impinge on development in small countries like those in the Caribbean. Specifically, concessional lending to these countries will likely take due account of these factors.
This is especially important given that ongoing efforts to reform the international economic architecture in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis are heavily weighted in favor of the G20 group of large economies.
So here’s to women replacing more and more men in positions of power. And none will be more heralded (and symbolic) than Hillary Clinton replacing Robert Zoellick as head of the World Bank when his term expires next year – notwithstanding her politically correct denials.